Nigeria has confirmed reports that 82 of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls have been released. It followed negotiations with the terrorist group Boko Haram which had been holding the girls captive all this time.
The girls were released “in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities,” according to the presidency. Negotiations to secure the girls’ release involved local agencies as well as the Swiss government and Red Cross. News of their release comes three weeks after Nigeria’s vice president Yemi Osinbajo, confirmed the government was in negotiations to get more girls released.
In total, over 270 girls were kidnapped in April 2014 from a school dormitory in Chibok, a town in Nigeria’s troubled northeast. The kidnapping sparked international outcry and the girls became a cause celebre from Hollywood to former first lady Michelle Obama with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Before the latest releases and apart from the girls who escaped on the night of the abduction, only 22 girls have been either released or rescued so far. While one of the girls was rescued following an operation by the Nigerian Army, 21 others were released following negotiations also involving Red Cross and the Swiss government last October. It is believed there are still 113 girls missing.
It marked the first time, after many months of trying, that the government had successfully negotiated for the girls’ release with Boko Haram. Despite strong indication to the contrary at the time, Nigeria’s government insisted that the release of the 21 girls did not involve a prisoner exchange.
For much of the time they have been kidnapped, uncertainty has grown over the general well-being of the girls. Boko Haram has previously claimed some of the girls were killed by airstrikes by Nigeria’s air force while others had been married off to Boko Haram fighters.